It’s been the quietest of weeks in the woods. No sightings of bear, moose or rabbits. No splitting and stacking firewood. Just sweet birdsong, whirring fans, cool early morning breezes, stifling hot 90 degree afternoons.
You might hear the sprinkling of cold well water from our hose watering all those little peppers, zucchini, rattlesnake beans at 7 p.m. You might see me in the garden at 8:30 a.m. on hands and knees thinning carrots. Imagine the feeling of brisk walking down the road before the hot sun commandeers the sky.
I close up the house before 10 a.m., shuttering down all the open windows. Turn on the dehumidifier in the basement. For the next six or seven hours I cloister like a nun or monk within the cocoon of our little house. Turn the fans on as the thermostat creeps up.
While cloistering may mean meditation and quiet for awhile, eventually a book, video or podcast beckons.
This past week featured several amazing offerings that I would like to share with you. Even though this week was the quietest of quiet weeks–I have vicariously entered the world of abduction, siege and stroke. Topped off with a little magic that still has me pondering the ups and downs of life…
The first podcast that woke me out of a fan-dazed slumber: Buddha at the Gas Pump’s host Rick Archer interviewed Robin Landsong. My friend, Jodi, out in California, highly recommended it. Wow! What an amazing story Robin tells. Without giving away too much of the plot–she was abducted as an eight year old from the US and taken to Rhodesia, Africa, during the height of the Rhodesian War. After her abductor assaulted and abandoned her, she made her way to a rural village. Two near-death experiences followed, but village women saved and healed her with traditional singing and mothering and touch.
I started by listening to the podcast but eventually wanted to watch this fascinating interview on video because the reunion between Robin and one of the village women years later needs to be seen. Have your kleenex handy. (Another friend, Catherine, watched it and adds her recommendation.)
Yesterday, soon after shutting down the house, I stumbled upon another video that seemed very interesting. Even though it might prove painful to watch. The documentary is called “For Sama” on PBS Frontline. During a terrible time of conflict and darkness in her home in Aleppo, Syria, one young woman kept her camera rolling–while falling in love, getting married, having a baby and saying goodbye while her city crumbled.
I watched, spellbound, as this woman spun her incredible story of passion and conviction and survival while living through endless siege. Bombs destroyed and killed daily while her doctor-husband and other medics tried to save men, women and children caught in the fray.
The camera records at odd angles–this is not your usual documentary–this portrayal makes it seem like you’re actually in the room with Waad Al-Kateab and her constantly-rolling camera.
I don’t usually like movies with any blood or violence, but this one proved different. It felt so raw and real. It moves the heart by revealing the nit and grit of living in a war-torn world. If you’re brave and want to be opened beyond what you’ve known before, please watch.
Besides these two heart-rendering video offerings, I also want to share a couple of books.
This week I read “Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart” by James Doty, MD. This is a New York Times Bestseller about the extraordinary things that can happen when we harness the power of the brain and heart.
Dr. Doty is quite a story-teller. He was born into an environment of poverty and neglect. He weaves his tale about how, at age twelve, he wandered into a magic shop looking for a plastic thumb. Instead, he met Ruth, a women who taught him a series of exercises to ease his own suffering and manifest his greatest desires. Her final mandate was that he keep his heart open and teach these techniques to others.
I liked some of the book, didn’t resonate with other parts, but am glad to have discovered this story during a hot and sultry July week.
I would also like to recommend another book. Maybe some of you have already read it: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte-Taylor. One of my all-time favorites! Another New York Times bestseller that chronicles how a brain scientist’s own stroke led to enlightenment.
In December, 1996, Jill–a Harvard trained brain scientist–experienced a massive stroke to the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of her life–she alternated between the euphoria of the intuitive and kinesthetic right side of her brain where she experienced complete well-being and peace–and the logical, sequential left brain which recognized she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take eight years to fully recover.
If you’re interested–this book is astounding. Check it out if you’re cloistered and wondering what to do next.
What do all these books and videos have in common?
The magic of perspective. The magic of redemption.
The revelation that terrible things can happen to good people. How people can be torn asunder by horrors such as abduction, siege, poverty and disease. How their viewpoint–all these years later–highlights the values learned, the treasures revealed, the larger awareness gained. Even though horrific things happened in each of these stories, each of these people have discovered love and openness and connection rather than shutting down their hearts in the despair and agony of trauma. (Even though they DID shut down at times in their lives as they struggled through the pain.)
Those of us sitting in our homes to shelter from heat or virus might take comfort that challenges so often do bring unexpected gifts. May it be so for every one of us. xoxo
I love this post. I’m having the hardest time concentrating enough to read a book, though I am slowly making my way through Eviction. I read the Jill book a few years ago and found it fascinating. And I love, love, love the photo of the inside of a gas lamp. The colors and shapes are wonderful.
I am glad you liked this, Dawn. Yes, sometimes books can be so challenging to plow through. So very happy you were also intrigued with the Jill Bolte-Taylor story. So often I will think of what happened to her in relation to the spiritual journey. As for the gas lamp–fascinating when a photo can reveal magic like that.
I shall save the email notifying me of this post so that when I get back home I can check into some of the things you mentioned. For Sama is one I particularly want to watch – perhaps watching the horrors of a life during war will give me more appreciation for the the calm life I live.
Carol, if you end up watching it–let me know what you think. You’ve stated a very good reason to view it. Suddenly our peaceful lives can be appreciated so much more.
We watched “For Sama” last night. Hard to watch sometimes, yes, but so moving. I just kept saying “I cannot imagine living through that”. A sharp awakening to the privilege to live life in a country that has been spared that horror, so far.
Yes, same here, cannot imagine living through something like that, either. We have been so blessed (at least many of us) with our privileges. I want to keep remembering that, especially when times seem so dismal.
I have For Sama on my Netflix dvd list. I am in the process of working through a rough draft from 2014. I go through my death from a fatal cancer, come out on the other side and am given a mission to be reborn in Syria, become a refugee in Jordan and deliver a message that falls on deaf ears, then go off and die fighting in Syria. Then, have the joy of being reborn right here in our Missouri wilderness to descendants several generations hence. All that to say that for several months I’ve been deep into Islamic history and the Syrian Civil War and the al-Assads. I did watch a great Vimeo documentary filmed within the refugee camp I imaging which really helped me sense that place.
What a fascinating story, Deb! Death, reincarnation, refugee, prophet, fighting. I can imagine you’ve really had to study so much about the Syrian Civil War. I really haven’t known much about it. It is so interesting what stories want to be told through us…
I read about Jill Bolte-Taylor. I found it fascinating to get such a description. And I think I will go to Buddha at the Gas Pump when I’m at home and resting 🙂 Thanks.
I image that you did enjoy the Bolte-Taylor book, Sherry. Especially with your knowledge of all things medical. Let me know what you think of the Batgap (Buddha at the Gas Pump) interview. It’s quite a story!
I shall have to check out these magical recommendations! Thanks for sharing them.
Susan, you so often read/listen to the videos/articles that I suggest. Only listen/read if you are truly inspired! I love the magic that you read this. xoxoxo
You’re magic too, Larissa. 💗
Oh my goodness, what a wealth of offerings for these days of refuge at home. I’ll keep this post handy for future reference. Loved the lantern photo! Intriguing, mysterious, deep.
Judi, I am sure you might enjoy one or more of these during times-at-home. Thank you for liking the lantern picture!
These all sound like interesting, albeit intense, ways of learning about someone else’s struggles and triumphs. Thanks for sharing them here. I agree there is a magic in perspective, something that is easy to forget when the news draws you into its one point of view.
Hi Ally Bean! Yes, indeed, these offerings were very intense. I guess that’s why they inspired me so much. And you are so right about how easy it is to forget perspective. Sigh. It happens so often….
Sounds as if you are educating yourself on a nice variety of reading as well as being enlightened on various aspects of a what humans are capable of surviving. I just can not read those kinds of books. I get very anxious due to the excitement and suspense.
Anyhoo, your garden sounds lovely. I water in the morning to prevent the chance of fungus attacking the plants. The sun, here in Texas is scorching hot right now. But I use mulch and that helps a great deal..
Yvonne, I do so understand why you can’t read those kinds of books (or watch videos like these?) Sometimes my nervous system gets so overwhelmed it’s impossible, so I get it. Have heard about fungus attacking the garden if you water at night. Will keep that in mind! Stay well, my friend.
Beautiful post, Kathy. Your day sounds lovely! I would not mind some of that. The books sound awesome, too. How you connected them all makes sense. And despite everything that happens, good or bad, you are right, there is magic and we are magic.
Just you writing this comment is magic. Thanks for your bright enthusiasm!
Thanks for the viewing and reading tps, Kathy. I read Jll’s book several years ago but got a sample of the Magic Shop on my Kindle. Do you read on your Fire (I remember you got one ages ago)? I can usually tell by the time I read the sample if I’ll enjoy the book. The glass lamp photo keeps drawing me. There is something quite eerie (magical?) about it. That “monster” face in the upper middle gives me the shivers. I like the water one, too – I see beneath the ripples. Take Care.
Hi Barb, so nice to see you. Glad to hear you’ve read Jill’s book. Not sure if you’ll like the Magic Shop or not, but you will probably know with the sample. That’s how I choose, too. Sometimes I buy a book and only get a few small things out of it. Other times–the whole book zings with information or energy or help. I do not read on the Kindle anymore. Just do jigsaw puzzles on it, because they’re free on there. Now I have an iPad and do most things on it. Glad to hear you liked the glass lamp photo. Isn’t it intriguing how certain photos can come out so artistic and mysterious? Even with magic beneath ripples. You guys take care, too! I am enjoying reading your daily stones.
Like some of your other readers I am saving this post to digest a little at a time. I am amazed by how much you can absorb in just a week! This morning I listened to Jill Bolte-Taylor’s Ted Talk and am astonished by her stroke experience and how well she can describe it now that’s she’s recovered. It reminded me of a book I read by Ram Dass a few years ago, about his stroke. He also experienced complete well-being and peace. (Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing & Dying) Perhaps I will get Jill’s book, although I do have some trouble concentrating while reading these days. Makes me wonder what is going on in my brain as I age…
Hello, Barbara. The week I wrote about was a rather intense week of education! Usually don’t absorb quite so much. The Jill Bolte-Taylor book was not read during this same week, but wanted to add it in here. The Ram Dass book sounds interesting, although will have to check my library to see if perhaps I already read it? Know what you mean about aging brains…